I’m not going to mince words here. It’s been a tough year. I mean, heck, the Queen of England died. It doesn’t get much grimmer than that. Lots of political upheaval, too, along with threats to democracy. But given that this is Thanksgiving Day, it’s time to look at the glass being half full. The bad guys (and gals) haven’t won. The good guys (and gals) are still fighting. The turkey is hot, the stuffing is flavorful, the potatoes are mashed, the cranberry is saucy, the rolls are doughy, the beans are stringy and the pumpkins and apples are pied. No matter what else is going on in our lives, the typical holiday culinary journey taken by our taste buds demonstrates that things could be a whole lot worse. That, and football on the tube, too.
Moreover, we’re continuing to trickle back into movie theaters and traveling to see people and heading out to restaurants and plays and concerts almost like the good old days before the C-word started harshing everyone’s mellow. The pandemic remains, but the fear surrounding it has largely subsided. We non-isolators are pretty thankful for that. Plus, when it comes to film and television, there have been far more tedious times than 2022 – like 2020 and 2021, for instance.
There are indeed an abundance of quality projects out there that point to a creative zenith. Too optimistic? I beg to differ. My thankfulness cup runneth over for all of the following this year, and it ain’t even over yet:
“The Fabelmans”: Steven Spielberg’s quasi-autobiographical saga based on his early family life is heartwarming and poignant and just edgy enough to hold us in its thrall. Hello? Michelle Williams? It’s Oscar calling.
“She Said”: No matter what you may or may not have heard, this is a great journalism film that presents an extraordinarily accurate picture of the grunt work that brings results. Beautifully acted, too.
“The Whale”: A dark and harrowing film that features one of the great all-time cinematic performances from Brendan Fraser. It’s also powerful and claustrophobic.
“Elvis”: Austin Butler turns in an electrifying depiction of Elvis Presley in this biopic that’s more alchemy than impersonation. Director Baz Luhrmann‘s broad instincts work well for him here.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”: An absurd and wondrous multiverse treat that hops across genres and defies expectations with mind-bending brilliance, with the incandescent Michelle Yeoh leading the way.
“Top Gun: Maverick”: Sure, it was cheesy and predictable, but as airborne action flicks go, it was spectacular. And yeah, it wouldn’t bother me at all if Tom Cruise got an Oscar nom.
“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”: A positively fearless and raw performance from Emma Thompson carries this underappreciated gem of a film that focuses on a woman’s post-marital sexual awakening. Fun and invigorating to watch.
“Women Talking”: A gripping, wrenching drama that’s brilliantly conceived by writer-director Sarah Polley and an all-star cast headed by Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Frances McDormand.
“The Good Nurse”: I got to the end of this thriller before realizing that the title referred to Jessica Chastain’s character rather than the evil killer played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne. It manages to tell its fact-based story without judgment.
“The Pale Blue Eye”: Christian Bale demonstrates why he may be our greatest actor working today in this Netflix thriller, totally immersing himself in the role of a detective investigating ritualistic killings in 1830 at West Point Academy.
“The Corridors of Power”: A feature-length documentary that’s eligible for this year’s Oscar short list, it’s a riveting and intense look at how American leaders have responded to reports of genocide overseas since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“EO”: The year’s best foreign film may just be this Polish entry, a Cannes Jury Prize winner, that focuses almost silently on a soulful donkey and its life both in captivity and during rare moments of freedom. Beautiful, occasionally harrowing and wholly inventive.
“Abbott Elementary”: Shifting to TV, this series set in a Philadelphia elementary school that focuses on the teachers rather than the students pulls off the difficult trick of being both hilarious and painstakingly realistic.
“Severance”: Alternately darkly funny and horrific, this psychological thriller from Apple TV+ follows a biotech company that uses a medical procedure to control the minds and memories of its employees, with Adam Scott starring. Riveting and ingenious.
“Better Call Saul”: No, this spinoff from “Breaking Bad” wasn’t as good as the original, but even 80% as good is pretty spectacular. It’s time for the Golden Globes or the SAGs or somebody to give it and star Bob Odenkirk some love.
“Reboot”: A superb cast led by Keegan-Michael Key, Rachel Bloom and Johnny Knoxville fuel a surprisingly clever and entertaining Hulu series from “Modern Family’s” Steven Levitan about a dysfunctional cast that reunites for the money.
“Only Murders in the Building”: What can you say about Steve Martin and Martin Short? They’re flat-out adorable (and so is Selena Gomez) in a Hulu series that’s sometimes too precious but is always amusing and winking at us thoughtfully.
“The Bear”: Another Hulu half-hour (via FX) about a young guy (Jeremy Allen White) who returns to his family’s Chicago beef sandwich shop to run things is riddled with stress and anxiety and tension and, ultimately brilliance.
And finally, a book (yes, sometimes I read, too).
“Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood’s Real-Life Tough Guy”: A bio from author Burt Kearns that officially drops on December 6 and entertainingly details the crazy life of the pugnacious actor who once had a fistfight on the set of “Reservoir Dogs” with Quentin Tarantino. Highly recommended.
So you see, ladies and gentlemen, we have more than enough stuff to give thanks for today. It is therefore incumbent on us to be of good cheer.
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